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Beginning a Home Search

Buying a new home is a significant life event, especially if it is your first homebuying process.

This article will explore the tools you need to navigate the housing market and find a home that is perfect for you.


Affordability is a bedrock component of the homebuying process. First-time homebuyers and seasoned homebuyers should understand how much house they can afford. Before you start house-hunting, many Realtors and real estate agents will ask for a mortgage preapproval letter. Preapproval letters tell you and the real estate professional exactly how much you can afford to pay for a house.

Pre-qualifications are not as in-depth as preapprovals but will give you and your real estate agent an estimate or idea of how much you may be able to afford. But a pre-qualification is not as accurate and doesn't carry as much weight as a preapproval.

Providing Financial Information

Mortgage lenders will ask for proof of income, credit reports, credit scores, and past bank statements to determine your mortgage loan options. With this financial information, the mortgage lender can assess your debt-to-income ratio. As you embark on your path to homeownership, monitor your credit card usage and credit score, as these factors affect your home loan options.

Homebuyers can see, in advance, potential mortgage payments and interest rates. A preapproval letter will help determine possible closing costs and mortgage insurance. Include property taxes in your cost analysis. Monthly payments are not the only outlay homeowners make.

Other Financial Considerations

As you gather documentation and savings, prepare to give a down payment or earnest money to secure your dream home. Earnest money is a type of security that homebuyers place into escrow to show their good-faith intent to purchase the home.

What Do You Want in a Home?

Knowing what you want in a home or community is as important as a mortgage approval. Consider the following areas as you build your lists:

  • Deal-breakers: Attributes you do not want in a home or community, such as high crime, landfills, or flood zones
  • Must-haves: Attributes you need, including good school districts and local parks
  • Wish list: Attributes you would like to have, such as bay windows and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves

Conducting a Home Search

Once you know your mortgage options, you can start the home search process. While many people choose a buyer's agent to help them in their home search, many options are available to homebuyers.

These options include the following:

  • Buyer's agent
  • Realtor
  • Open house events
  • The internet
  • Word of mouth

Buyer's Agent

As the name suggests, a real estate buyer's agent exclusively focuses on the homebuyer. By contrast, real estate listing agents serve the homeowner's best interests. They are experts in their areas and can answer local real estate market questions. They can schedule physical or virtual tours once they understand the buyer's wants and needs.

Be sure to take your time and choose the best buyer's agent for you. A good buyer's agent can advise you on a home's value compared to the home price. They can negotiate the purchase price with the seller's agent. And while your future home is in escrow, they can connect you with other professionals, such as home inspection professionals, and accompany you on your final walkthrough.


Realtors are another alternative when starting your home search. Realtors are not synonymous with real estate agents. Real estate agents are typically licensed in the state where they work. They must pass a state licensing exam and often work for a real estate brokerage firm. Real estate brokers perform the same functions as real estate agents, but they can own a brokerage and hire agents through their licenses.

Realtors are solely distinguished by their membership in the National Association of Realtors. Realtors can serve as an agent or a broker.

Whether you work with an agent, broker, or Realtor, here are some questions to ask before committing to anyone.

The Internet

The internet is a powerful resource to find homes for sale in your price range and community. You can access the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) yourself or work with a real estate broker to create an interest list. You can visit popular real estate sales websites like Realtor.comZillowHomefinderTrulia, and Redfin.

These sites include the following:

  • Photos and descriptions of homes for sale
  • Past home sales information
  • Tax information
  • Information about the community

You can also find specialty websites focusing on luxury homes, land for sale, hobby farms, or lake cabins. Cities and counties often have webpages that advertise foreclosed or tax-forfeited properties.

Open House Events

Drive around residential neighborhoods you like. Some homeowners use “for sale" signs as part of a home sales strategy that does not include conventional advertising. On weekends, you may see open house events. Stop in and take a look. This is an excellent way to meet local Realtors.

If you find a home that piques your interest, call the contact and ask about an open house or an opportunity to schedule a home tour.

Get Help

Whether you are a first-time or a seasoned homebuyer, you may need help searching for a home. Whether you need help with a real estate contract or advice on structuring your mortgage, a qualified local real estate attorney can help. They understand local real estate laws and can help you navigate the process.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help guide you through the home buying process.

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